A Newsletter of Scientific and Civic Literacy. September 2007



“We are 45 doctors and we are determined to undertake jihad for Allah’s sakes and to take the battle inside damaged America, Allah willing.”

So read a folder found on a radical Muslim Internet web-master in London, arrested last summer for terrorism.

education of radicals Radical jihadist web sites are the front lines today. Jihad warriors can communicate with one another about potential sites, share car bombing techniques and build new terrorist cells, all with little chance of detection. Intelligence experts say, however, that more than sixty percent of the material on these web sites is cultural and ideological, designed to educate future radicals.

To me this signals some important lessons for American science and social studies educators.

One. Purely technical education is necessary but not sufficient. Hitler and Stalin had some good technical people. As do the radical Muslims today. Osama bin Laden is a trained engineer. His deputy, al-Zawahiri, is an educated physician.


In fact, most of the leaders of Jihadist movements today are educated, especially in the sciences and technology. But not at all in the history of democracy, economics, religion or tyranny. Sadly, I am afraid that American school children are not always doing much better. In their scientific and civic education that is.

We have to do better. We need what the late Sidney Hook, philosophy professor at NYU and world leader in democratic movements, liked to call “Education in Defense of a Free Society.”

defense of democracy To me that means teaching science and social studies in a way that goes beyond the factual and technical. In a way that tells the whole story, not just the technical part, but the economic, religious and historical parts. And in ways that capture and transmit the “soul” of science as well as the sobering lessons of history.

It is not enough, for instance, to teach the names of the planets, the laws of motion, and the technology of space flight. Students also need to appreciate the struggles of men like Copernicus, Galileo and Newton who discovered these things. And even some of the details of how often they were in conflict with dogmatic authorities of the time. And yes, how they themselves were not perfect, made mistakes, and could also be dogmatic and wrong.

bacteria and dogma It is not enough to teach about bacteria, viruses and sterile techniques. Students also need to know and appreciate the long struggle pioneers like Pasteur, Koch, Jenner and Nightingale had to go through to discover these things. Again often in conflict with dogmatic authorities.

They need to know how scientific ignorance combined with religious zeal caused people to burn witches and kill Jews in futile attempts to stop the Black Plague 500 years ago. And how the same combination brought down the twin towers in New York just a few years ago.

passionate faith It is not enough to teach conventional history and textbook civics. Students need to know and appreciate the connections between science and democracy, between economics and democracy and between religions and democracy. They especially need to know how often in history the passionate unconditional faith in an idea or a person has fueled so much misery and tragedy both on the people who hold the dogmatic idea as well as the people who hold to a different idea.

In short, scientific methods and values are not just a matter of learning about hypotheses and experimental procedures. More important they are about respect for evidence and surprisingly enough, respect for ignorance.

defense of ignorance The late physicist Richard Feynman put it better than I can.

“I feel a responsibility,” Feynman wrote, “to proclaim the value of this freedom and to teach that doubt is not to be feared, but that it is to welcomes as the possibility of a new potential for human beings. If you know that you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation. I want to demand this freedom for future generations.”

education for the future If only bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and the 9/11 bombers had experienced that kind of education, If only some our right and left-wing radicals in the west could experience that kind of education, we could all rest easier for our future.
School begins fall 2007 School is just beginning this 2007 fall. Congratulations are in order for both teachers and students. Since so few saw it last fall, I want to reprint this story from the 2006 fall HAWKHILL NEWS.
What teachers make The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Susan. Be honest. What do you make?"

Susan, who had a reputation for honesty replied, "You want to know what I make?

"I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math and perfect their final drafts in English. I make them understand that if you have the brains, and follow your heart, and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you must pay no attention because they just didn't learn."

Susan paused and then continued. "You want to know what I make? 'I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.' What do you make?"

selling Hawkhill To catch you up, I let the cat out of the bag last fall and said I was interested in selling Hawkhill. Well, I have not sold Hawkhill as yet and am still not in any hurry. If any of you readers are interested let me know. It’s a great chance to make a difference. And a great business to make a living as well.
new series in 2008 I am working now on a new series to follow up our successful series in cultural literacy, Democracy in World History. The follow-up will explore what I call the three important actors in the ongoing drama of democracy around the world-- Science, Capitalism and Religion. Three new programs are tentatively titled: SCIENCE AND DEMOCRACY, CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY, and RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY. All of these programs will be available on Interactive DVDs that include provocative questions and quizzes to help teachers “make kids .. work harder .. criticize ...read ... write ... and wonder.”

In the meantime if you haven’t previewed them yet please take a look at the six parts of DEMOCRACY IN WORLD HISTORY. You can read the scripts for all six parts as well as view sample video clips at www.hawkhill.com

half-price updates On the same web site you can also read scripts and view sample video clips for over 150 other 21st century updated programs on Energy, Environment, History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Science and Society. You might want to pay special attention to these newly updated (2007) titles—DISEASE AND HEALTH, RADIATION, NUCLEAR POWER, STEM CELLS, GENETIC ENGINEERING, EVOLUTION, THE BIOSPHERE and ENERGY AND SOCIETY. And remember, if you have earlier versions of any of these programs, you can get the updated 2007 versions at half price.

Editor: Bill Stonebarger
Hawkhill Associates, Inc.
125 East Gilman St.
Madison, WI 53703